America Should Tread Carefully to Avoid Pushing Iraq Further Into Iran’s Orbit

Iraq remains economically dependent on Iran which complicates Washington’s hopes of forcing the country to adopt an actively anti-Iranian policy

AמשThe Katyusha rocket that exploded near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a fortified area home to Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies, instantly turned Iraq into a new focal point of the collision course that Iran and the United States are on.

The launch was automatically attributed to pro-Iranian forces or Shi’ite militias headquartered around Baghdad, which ostensibly sought to send a message to the U.S. government, and also to the Iraqi government – that it shouldn’t capitulate to American pressure. As with earlier attacks on Saudi ships in the Persian Gulf

Americans are exerting pressure in two directions. One is an effort to sever Iraq’s economy from Iran’s, thereby plugging the expected hole in its sanctions on Iran. The second is aimed at enabling American forces to use Iraqi territory as a launchpad for attacks on Iran, should the conflict turn violent.

Both these issues have sparked political and diplomatic disputes within Iraq, threatening the stability of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi’s government. That government rests on a complex, fragile coalition of Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish parties, most of which reject both of Washington’s demands.

Iran is Iraq’s most important trading partner, with bilateral trade estimated at $12 billion a year. Iraq also depends on Iran for natural gas and electricity – two products which, if the supply were halted, could bring masses of people into the streets, just as happened a few months ago in Basra.

, there’s still no actual information about who was behind this attack, but it’s clear who was the target.

This economic dependency, which includes Iraqi debts of about $2 billion to Iran, evolved some years after the Iraq War. This could have been prevented had the Iraqi and American governments been wise enough to control the Pentagon’s enormous investments in Iraq and develop the country’s water and electricity infrastructure and its abundant natural gas fields. Instead, much of the money went into the pockets of contractors, political leaders, cronies and political parties with no supervision, to the point that wealthy Iraq became a bankrupt country that needed huge loans from international institutions.